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What Causes Strep Throat and How to Relieve the Symptoms

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jul 28, 2021

What Causes Strep Throat and How to Relieve the Symptoms

Is your throat very itchy? There may be a chance that you have strep throat. But what causes strep throat? Learn more here. 

What are the Symptoms of Strep Throat? 

Strep throat is normally a mild infection. However, it can feel very painful for some people who have it. Some common strep throat symptoms may include:

  • Sore throat with no cold or cough
  • Sore throat with fever and pain
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting and nausea, particularly with children
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Tender and swollen neck lymph nodes
  • Small red spots located on the hard or soft palate
  • Swollen and red tonsils, occasionally with streaks of pus or white patches
  • Feeling pain when you swallow drinks or food
  • Throat pain, that often comes on suddenly 
  • Difference Between Strep Throat and Sore Throat?

    Sore throats are usually caused by viruses, like the ones that cause the flu or the common cold. However, strep throat is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes.

    It can be easy to confuse strep throat for a sore throat because the symptoms may be similar. However, s strep throat comes with a sore throat with no cough or cold, ear infections, etc.

    What Causes Strep Throat?

    A type of bacterial infection that makes your throat feel scratchy and sore is strep throat. 

    There are 4 kinds of streptococcal bacteria, which are categorized into groups A, B, C, and G. The bacteria that causes strep throat is Group A, which is called Streptococcus pyogenes, which is highly contagious. 

    When an infected person sneezes or coughs, they release airborne droplets into the air and spread the bacteria. Inhaling the airborne droplets may get you infected. Sharing items like utensils or glasses with an infected person could get you infected. If you touch skin sores from impetigo/group A strep, you could also contract it. 

    Who is More Likely to Get Strep Throat?

    Nearly anyone can have strep throat, but certain factors and people may be more prone to getting infected. These are: 

    • Children who are 5-15 years old (rare in kids who are 3 years old and younger)
    • Parents of children who go to school
    • Adults in regular contact with kids
    • Close contact with an infected person (ex. family member, coworker, etc.)

    Complications of Strep Throat

    Strep throat can cause complications if it is not properly and promptly treated. Some complications that it can cause may include:

    • Peritonsillar abscess. It’s a pus-filled infection located behind your tonsils
    • Guttate psoriasis. Red and small teardrop-shaped spots that show up on the body
    • Scarlet fever
    • Mastoiditis. This happens when your skull’s mastoid bone gets infected
    • A kidney inflammation called poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis
    • An inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, heart, and joints called rheumatic fever
    • Sinusitis
    • Ear infections

    How is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

    A doctor may perform a physical exam to look for strep throat symptoms. A doctor may also have you take a throat culture and rapid antigen test to confirm your diagnosis.

    How Do You Treat Strep Throat?

    A doctor may give you medications to help relieve your symptoms, to prevent the spread and complications of strep throat, and to cure strep throat. 

    You may be given oral antibiotics. Antibiotics could decrease the severity of your symptoms and the duration of strep throat if you take it within 48 hours of your first symptoms. 

    You may feel better after 1-2 days after starting treatment. However, if you take antibiotics and there is no improvement after 48 hours, you may need to consult your doctor.

    It would be ideal to finish all the given antibiotics even if you feel better and you are not contagious. If you stop early, there is a chance that you could get complications like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. It could also lead to you getting strep throat again.

    Over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be given as well to relieve symptoms. 

    Be wary of giving children aspirin. While children 3 years old and above may be able to take aspirin, it would be best not to give them aspirin if they have flu-like symptoms or if they are getting better from chickenpox. It could cause them to get Reye’s Syndrome.

    Drinking lots of water and resting could also help ease your symptoms. Avoid irritants like cigarette smoke to also help prevent another infection or irritating your throat.

    How Do You Prevent Strep Throat?

    There are simple things you can do that can decrease your chances of getting infected. Some things you can do include:

    • Not sharing any personal items like utensils 
    • Washing dishes used by infected people in a dishwasher or soapy and hot water
    • Using alcohol-based sanitizer or washing your hands regularly, especially when you are in close contact with an infected person or potentially contaminated surfaces
    • Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze to prevent spreading the infection

    When Should I See a Doctor?

    If you experience any of these symptoms, you may need to call a doctor if:

    • No improvement after 48 hours and taking antibiotics
    • Difficulties swallowing and/or breathing 
    • Sore throat with a rash
    • Fever
    • Having a sore throat for more than 48 hours
    • Sore throat with swollen and tender lymph glands

    Key Takeaways

    Recognizing the signs and causes of strep throat can help you learn how to properly treat it and prevent getting it.

    Learn more about the conditions of the Ears, Nose, and Throat here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jul 28, 2021

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